India, Russia finalise n-pact, target $10 bn trade


New Delhi : India and Russia Tuesday completed negotiations on a civil nuclear pact for Russia to build four more nuclear reactors in Tamil Nadu after a green signal from the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The two countries also agreed to enhance bilateral trade to $10 billion by 2010.

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Russian Prime Minister Victor A. Zubkov, who arrived here Tuesday morning on a two-day official visit, held talks with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh and discussed an entire array of bilateral, regional and global issues, including civilian nuclear cooperation.

“We have finalised negotiations for an agreement on cooperation in the construction of additional nuclear power plants in India,” Manmohan Singh told reporters after his talks with Zubkov, as he stressed on the “time tested nature of the close and special ties” between the two countries.

However, both sides agreed that a bilateral nuclear pact that will entail Russia building four additional reactors at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu will be signed only after a change in guidelines by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) allows for resumption of global civilian nuclear cooperation with India.

In fact, the two countries finalised the text of a bilateral nuclear pact ahead of Manmohan Singh’s visit to Moscow in November last year, but it could not be signed due to India’s principled position not to sign such a bilateral pact with any other country till a change in guidelines by the NSG.

Manmohan Singh also told his Russian counterpart about the ongoing efforts by India to finalise a safeguards pact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – a key step that will pave the way for operationalisation of the nuclear deal.

A team of Indian officials is in Vienna for another round of talks to finalise an India-specific safeguards pact with the IAEA.

The two sides also discussed the controversial escalation in the price by Russia of the retrofitted aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov.

The Russian side defended the escalation in the costs, saying the economics of refitting the aircraft carrier have changed radically since the two sides entered into an agreement over three years ago. The two sides agreed to find a mutually acceptable solution to this contentious issue and resolved not to allow it to cloud their longstanding defence ties.

“We reaffirmed our commitment to build upon our defence relations which is an important pillar of our strategic partnership,” Manmohan Singh said.

The two leaders also discussed steps aimed at more than doubling bilateral trade from $4 billion to $10 billion by 2010.

“In our discussions, we agreed to re-double our efforts to tap the full potential of our two economies,” Manmohan Singh said. “We agreed on the need to diversify our trade basket, and expand cooperation in sectors such as minerals, diamonds, transport and infrastructure, investment and services, and high technology,” he added.

The two sides agreed to operationalise a joint task force to implement recommendations to increase bilateral trade to $10 billion by 2010 and consider a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.

Cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector also figured in the discussions. “I expressed my hope that discussions between our oil and gas companies would result in finalization of joint projects in India, Russia and third countries,” Manmohan Singh said.

Zubkov later inaugurated the second meeting of the trade and investment forum, being attended by business titans of both countries.

A memorandum on the development of cooperation in law enforcement matters between the Central Board of Excise and Customs, Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance of India and the Russian Federal Customs Service was signed after talks between the two leaders.

The pact aims at spurring greater cooperation on fighting drug smuggling, psychotropic substances and their precursors, dual use goods, contraband and customs offences in commercial trade by constituting a Joint Working Group, information exchange and regular meetings of the customs officials to counter violations.

Another MoU on cooperation in the field of archives was inked by heads of the National Archives of India and Russia’s Federal Archival Agency.

Manmohan Singh and Zubkov are to jointly inaugurate the Year of Russia in India Tuesday night with a gala concert against the magnificent ruins of the 16th century Purana Qila fort.